tv When Everything Changed CSPAN January 21, 2017 3:19pm-4:05pm EST
them together in one big story and it is also about my great uncle, doing that i do see it is a labor of love and attribute to my family. thank you very much. [applause] >> you are watching booktv on c-span2 with coverage of the 2017 key west literary seminar. now new york times columnist gail collins, author of "when everything changed: the amazing journey of american women from 1960 to the present".
the change good afternoon. i am in the a and i am here with gail collins. i don't think i have to introduce everyone. she was the columnist for the new york times, among many illustrious points in her career, and time at the end for questions. i want to start by saying this panel, i titled it, it is called dancing backwards and come from joe russell's house, don't know if you remember bill russell's house. he was in the nixon administration, and his wife was a policymaker and woman of some fluids. it occurred to me when i was 13
and going to getting school that -- dancing school, and what you have to dance backward all their lives. speaking about hillary clinton -- >> i knew we would get to hillary clinton. >> host: i want to start with journalism, you started in the early 70s, you have said you did not have to break down the walls, and a few years ahead of you have taken their backs's coronation style lands gotten in, started covering the connecticut state house. had to be mostly men.
>> guest: she was sort of an and peculiar way, she didn't bond in the capital. the fact that she was there, did make a little more conscious. we are allowed to say four letter word which >> host: you are encouraged. >> guest: several occasions, i had them all. and personal legislators for them. they were interviewed, say fuck a lot and i'm not sure i'm allowed to say this and i can thinking this is one of the barriers i am breaking down and feel comfortable. it was never -- it was also
humble, no power point legislative journalists you had to fight against. the old guys were very conservative but nothing we wanted so it didn't matter. >> host: i want to tell a story about working at the wall street journal. one of my predecessors was covering one of the first women reporters at the journal, she was covering the chemical industry. imagine how many men there were in the top angela's -- echelon of the chemical industry, she would be the only woman and a guy would get up and say i have a great joke but i can't tell it because ellen is here. >> guest: ellen is ruining the joke. >> host: you are not allowed to say go the fuck ahead. >> that was a great political
education for you. a good way for a political reporter to start is in the state house. and journalism careers, and thinking about it. and journalism said they pretend to know about you but all they know is how can i get a job, you got to pick that you really love. and it is a good chance that by the end you won't get a career at the new york times and if you spend 5 or 10 years, the career you were imagining, to get yourself in a position where you
are forced to write constantly, and maniacally right which when we did the news service, the news service, trish hall, the op-ed editor of the new york times, never made money with the news service in other ways. we had 35 papers and they were all expecting every other day updates. we were writing 5, 10, 20 stories at night and they weren't great stories at all. just having to write so much all the time broke down the barrier between thinking and writing, thinking about the basics it is easier to make it fancy to enjoy
your self which it works out well despite the fact we never made money at all but it was a good plan. >> host: you were writing on a manual typewriter. >> guest: we started with a manual typewriter, we were talking about this the other night at dinner. i was there for the transition between manual typewriters and computers and word processors. i really do think the texture of the writing changed when we changed the ways we inputted it and became much less dense, clearer, more crystalline. less thoughtful, less deep, don't know what it meant when it was different but it was different, the sentences got shorter and punchier as paragraphs got smaller, it changed again, people are
writing prose on their cell phones. it is changing the way people read and think about was way off your subject. >> host: not at all. let's skip -- i know you worked at several newspapers, you mentioned them in your early talk but i don't want to go through each of them. what is the general drift in your career? how did you move from the connecticut state house or connecticut news service. >> you can get all kinds of small gigs, there is nobody else doing it. a lot of places that would like to know a little tiny bit about what is happening in the state legislature, a little tiny bit.
it was a normal suburban, they were headed to antiques, a lot of antique stores. all they wanted us to do is cover the antique legislation which was not substantial but still, it was there and doing it for different things in the new york times finally asked me to do their regional coverage on connecticut, started writing for them. and asked me if they wanted to come down and apply for a job because they had a copy editor's job on the connecticut section, we could get this. and telling trish about it and it was a strange voice, you don't know me, i am the copy editor, don't do this, it is terrible, really terrible. they will never let you write, they need copy editors more than they need writers and you are
and i was doing real estate stories. a guy named harry helms was a very rich and powerful old guy. only little people pay taxes. in the process, did you ever think of using a wealth of expertise to create housing for the poor? harry helmsley said what the fuck what i want to do that for. oh, okay, when i did donald trump, and up and coming guy, classy hotel. i asked him the same question and pause for a minute. he said what i would like is to
have a disease. he has muscular dystrophy and i could cure it. thinking of kidneys, he went through all the diseases, talking about which ones would be an never did pick a disease that he wanted. first time i met donald trump. >> i was at the daily news. that is when he was doing his marla maple states, he was having an affair with marla maples, they were covering this in the daily news like it was the end of the world, like there was a bigger deal and the weird part about it, you have this guy
who is having an affair and huge stories about it on the front page and he has a publicity team encouraging us to write more stories about the affair, there was never a team the publicity team said don't write about the affair, very embarrassing but that was his thing. the day he actually announced he was leaving for marla maples i was on vacation and called me back from vacation because donald trump should be leaving his wife for marla maples, my job was to make fun of donald trump and another guy was friends with donald trump and he would defend >> you don't remember what the headline was? >> that was not the best sex i ever had headline. it was before. ab that is why he liked it so much because there was a headline saying best sex i ever
had and now he is president. >> let's get to the present. when i ask, on a day you do two columns a week, give us a day in the life of tuesday which will be on monday, you are thinking about it all week, but what is that like? >> i like column days. i have an idea what i am going to do and have stuff but i just come in and talk to people, we talk about this the other day, you feel out what the other columnists are writing about, so you don't write about the same thing and with some than others to coordinate, nick kristof is my partner on the page. he is great about it.
the other day, for instance i was going to write about the press conference and nick says he is going to write about the press conference, then he came in, not doing it because there's a big breakthrough in my work on anti-child sex trafficking and i will do that and i say this all the time, that is the great thing, he is perfectly aware, more aware than anyone in the world if he goes to the sedated risks his life and almost killed and he is buried between 2 weeks and writes about women, children dying, he won't get as much traction and we all know now how many clicks we get for every story, doesn't get nearly as much, to falls out of bed and writes donald trump is a big weenie, really terrible but he does it anyway because he believes in the mission so much but that was just day and nick
made it as we have researchers who fact check for us which is the most glorious blessing in the history of the world. any errors in the column no matter how stupid, you have to write a correction and keep it off forever and it lives on to eternity. it is important to have not even the stupidest correction in the history of the world. i love doing it, nobody reads it. that is the other weird thing about being a columnist. nobody out there read it and comes back and says it doesn't make any sense. what are you talking about trusting if for the same words, well done, none of that happens which a copy editor makes sure you didn't libel anybody in the
grammar is accurate. i sent mine to dance with the husband to read it and tells me what is boring and what to fix, he has a good way of doing it so i don't get too suicidal and then we are done and it is a happy day. >> go home and start over again which >> it is part of life. i used to work with someone who wrote a column every single day. at the post he did it every single day and kept asking us how we could do it twice a week because it seemed so hard to him. he said i feel like there was such a bar. one of my two columns of the week, have to make it great, have to make it fantastic. there will be another one
tomorrow. i will be fine. >> i want to get to hillary through the back door. that is, tell us a little about the book you are working on. >> it is a history of older women in america and -- i thought this audience -- what is an older woman you one of the interesting as i have been going along and back in the 1600s when there were no women anywhere, if were still menstruating that week you were a primary topic, 50-year-old women coming off of the book, 27 men coming after them, me, me, me, me, the idea when you got old was a different kind of thing and once there were enough women in the cities where you didn't have an economic point, 24 was really over the hill, you were done, as wrapped up and sitting on a
rocking chair or something so it depends where you are. i was talking this week to gary trudeau. i try following different women, have not followed hillary yet and not sure if that will work out or not but joni caucus, do you remember joni caucus from the doonesbury cartoon? she started off as an older woman who ran away from home and joined the crew and applied to law school and she was 38 and she was exactly 38 because the law school sent applications and he had to make up a name because he followed through and she was accepted at berkeley and gave the commencement address and went through her life but when waiting for her applications to come back and find out where she was going she's walking around in the cartoon saying nobody is going to want a 38-year-old
middle-aged woman, too old, gary said it is true, can't deny it. she retired in washington, she is still around, worked with elizabeth warren for a while and retired in washington. anyway, we have been talking, i have been thinking about hillary as i have been going >> how much the fact is an woman hurt her in this campaign? >> i know the exact answer to that question. the fact that hillary was 68 years old would have been a totally central, destroying issue if donald trump had not been 70 years old but given the fact he was 17, it didn't come up at all and i didn't hear it
discussed among people because they were so engrossed in bernie sanders running around, joe biden, everybody was over 70 except hillary. she, weirdly, the age didn't come up as you would normally expect it to. >> do you know her? >> guest: we don't hang out but we spent time together. >> host: can you give us -- i don't you to try to oversimplify will be glib but what did you think of her as a candidate in this particular election? >> she was not terrific. it was pretty clear out there. if you look at the recent modern history, the pattern has been if you have a president in for two terms, next person is going to be from the other party.
besides the fact she was not from the other party, she was so attached however you want to think about it with barack obama and his policies that she really was an anti-change candidate. the democratic party believes in changing thing in many ways but as far as what was going on in washington there was nothing she was talking about that would be likely to believe there would be stupendous change in the way things were operating and it was not entirely her fault, it is the way it was worked. she was not politically the best candidate in the world. she's much nicer and more fun and everything in person than she is out there which she is really very funny, very charming, very easy and she is
off, but when she is on she is not the most electric candidate in the history of the world. >> host: if we might do more to the request later i went to talk, gail wrote a biography of william henry harrison. >> guest: i wrote a biography of william henry harrison. they are selling them out there right now. read up on william henry harrison. >> host: she will sign them. you said the most interesting thing about this race that it was the dumbest race, possibly, in american history, it was totally nuts. how did that compared to 2016? >> guest: that one number which is a heartwarming thing when you think about it. william henry harrison's race, this could only happen, talking to a famous historian, he can't
be quoted by me, talking how horrible this race is, i can't believe this is so terrible. what about william henry harrison? he screamed at me it is even worse than william henry harrison. i thought this is a discussion nobody else in america is having at this moment in time. the great thing with william henry harrison was at the beginning of popular votes, they were trying to think about ways to sell things and accidentally they stumbled on the idea of peddling william henry harrison as this humble soldier living in a log cabin, remembering how hard he fought with the boys with william henry harrison's father signed the declaration of independence, he was born on a plantation, went to medical school but created this thing, this guy, all these log cabin parades, floats with log cabins
and got a lot because of the cider collections and drinking going on and portrayed martin van buren whose father was a humble bartender in upstate new york as this rich guy who ran around wearing women's clothing and the shrubbery in the front of the white house reshaped to look like the bosoms of amazons. this stuff is really going on. that was a weird or election that is probably the only one i can think of. >> i want to ask what you wrote about. you said back when i was writing at the daily news i got a letter addressed to gail collins's liberal. and i thought does this person think i'm actually going to open the envelope? that has only gotten worse.
do you read your email you has gotten considerably worse? >> guest: i presume this person wanted to communicate in some way. i get a lot of letters. a good come on to get me to open the letter would be to put liberal pitch on the cover, seemed weird but the stuff that goes with columns at the end of the colonists, there is a team that goes through it and screams it the they don't take negative commentss but they take out all the racist stuff and homophobic stuff, the kind of thing that makes you want to shoot your self when you read things on the web so i miss all of that and i do read a lot of it but i have to tell you, if you think this is not true, we try -- the
colonists to intervene in those discussions what people are writing in and i tried it for a while and came to realize, when people write in about your column they are having a discussion among themselves about whatever topic you brought up and if you get in there, you are interrupted and getting in the way. at the daily news in particular, seems very eager for people to get to you >> you don't feel a decline in civility? >> guest: there is a decline in celebrity -- civility but i'm not a target. some of the younger women who are online a lot, ungodly horrible. it is not a problem that has been terrible for me.
>> host: is there a way to put the genie back in the bottle? are we on a 1-way course, one way route? >> guest: do with the times do, somebody screening this stuff before it goes up and becomes available to the general public, to push civility back. you cannot be saying wildly sexist -- it is crazy and ruins everything when people are trying to have a discussion and dialogue but that costs money. >> host: you will cover the inauguration next week. i always wondered, what do you do when you cover and inauguration? aren't you one of the people standing on the street watching? >> guest: wandering around the parties -- when i went to the
obama one back 2008, did the same thing, wandered around and watched people doing stuff and watched the speech and wandered around some more. i was struck by how much it reminded me of woodstock. it was like all these happy people who had no idea where they were going, just wandering around being happy, glad they are there, they won't get to the event ever but just happy and everything is good will this one be like that? >> host: i wanted also, you talked about this, i wanted you to talk about it again because i found it so moving and interesting, gail was asked, as were the other people on the panel, about a book you thought
made a difference in maybe there perception of politics for the political world or they knew made significant changes the way people thought about political or social terms. i would like you to do that again. >> i picked uncle tom's cabinet. looking back at history as seen through the eyes of women who went through a period that lasted forever for all of western to the outside order and women did the domestic order and women were not supposed to mess in any way with politics. in the 1800s as the media, there was a lot of writing to housewives, they became a good market and there was a lot of extolling of housewives as the heart of the family, conscience of the family, only be the family, not talking about the
outside world but the total purchase beloved part of the family and harriet beecher stowell in wrinkles on's cabinet figured out a way to speak to women, to say thing the slavery, is about family, letting young girls be ravaged by slave owners. it is about mothers being separated from their children, old people being left alone because their families are not allowed to help them she framed the whole thing in terms of the stuff that women were supposed to be in charge of and that brought women for the first time into the political scene. they went crazy over abolition in the north. they admitted things they auctioned off, they ran around collecting petitions, send them to john quincy adams, the only person who would take them and
they drove everybody else nuts and legislators went crazy and she did it. it was her book that made that happen, you can just see this clear hawk there and one writer did it. >> host: when will we be seeing the memoir? the gail collins memoir? >> guest: i am getting tired of memoirs. it is not the first thing on my list. >> host: how about fiction? >> guest: i tried doing fiction, when i'm writing about actual real so other people are in charge, i am making a pattern that stuff with older women to interview, nobody who was older is still alive by the 1950s.
i did ruth bader ginsburg, talked to her again and looking forward to go along. there are so many older women out there, very exciting i have to say. >> host: i want to circle around to statehouses where you started and i know it has been a subject of interest to you all your career and i want to ask if you think for those of us who are terrified and anxious and worried about the next 4 years, shall we pay attention, do we -- do you recommend -- >> guest: the super passion of mine, i cannot tell you, states are where all the stuff happens, real stuff that affects your
life. the entire obamacare thing, because states made different judgments whether to implement it when it first came out. it is all about the states, the states decide what your taxes are, states decide how your schools, everything starts with the states and the state seldom let local governments have enough power, the states are the critical thing. nobody pays attention, whatever they do they do by themselves and fewer and fewer newspapers and other forms of media are now bothering to subsidize a reporter to sit there and cover this stuff. many states, four or five people in the press corps and that he did and they are the only people except the lobbyists who are watching what these guys do and it is getting tinier and tinier and tinier and tinier you have a project you would like to do, do
something, cover state government to hire somebody to cover state government. it is so important which the connecticut state news bureau, i sold it which was ridiculous. the big banner over the desk in the press room, connecticut state's bureau. and nobody has used it. nobody covers -- i am babbling on but i'm passionate about the subject. >> we now can take questions which are there microphones
there and there. >> you have had the privilege of watching the evolution of journalism from the typewriter to the computer to journalists being revered to now dealing with the fake news and tweets of the headlines and i heard a lot of people lately saying i never saw this coming. could you put on or pull out your prints -- crystal ball and tell me where you see the future of journalism going based on what we are seeing today? >> guest: that is a really good question. if we knew where the future of journalism was people would be investing in it. thing we have been discovering at the times is within the confusion that is the new media,
there is a market for stuff you can rely on. after the election, our circulation popped up 100,000. it was stupendous and suddenly people thought i want to keep an eye on this stuff but i want to find a place i can do it, reliable reporting, not going to make stuff up and there will be somebody censoring the letters, calling somebody a liberal bench. that is part of it. i think people worry about that, they ask about it all the time, a future for the new york times. i think there's a future for that kind of media. beyond that, how twitter is going to become a debit is this has been going on 20 years now, the last ten, still, nobody found a way to make this pay,
providing content does not pay. they believe it will, they invest in it and invest in it more but so far it hasn't happened. when that moment comes that people figure out how to make content pay, they know what it is going to look like but right now if i knew i would buy it, that is what it is. >> don't know if you heard that today, congressman priebus discussed moving the white house press office out of the white house. obviously that is a concern, the position of the press during this administration. the people i see most vocal about our people like dan rather
and bill moyers who, thank god, are not quite retired. i am wondering whether there is any unity among the press to avoid going under and submitting to what i going to be efforts to divide and conquer. >> we were talking about that the other night. when the cnn reporter was trying to this nobody -- listen to this guy, i am spartacus which is not in the tradition -- and jumping up and saying answer that question which that come and partly because of competition. the white house press corps
be more difficult. the problem is that there aren't any press conferences anymore. the things you go to are much ã but all that needs to be worked out and changed. there has to be pressure in the administration to have regular press conferences. there has to be pressure ã [applause] and you have to have a press secretary that goes out there every day answers questions from the press. you have to do these normal things we've always done. not because any individual is that critical but because it is a team that reinforces the basic belief that this is a critical part of governing being open to the media. they appreciate. you will be covering the inauguration. you also become the women's marks the next day? >> yes. clatskanie discussed the
attitudes to taking his feelings to the street. >> everybody is gone. i don't know any reported that is not going to cover these women's markets. it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. it has been hard for me to get my finger on how to organize this effort is. and where we will end up. the protest in general has always been that once you have a protest and in march you have to wind up somewhere. left not and then do something or say something. i would like to see that part. it reminds me back in 1970, betty ãcalled for a women's march. sort of off the top of her head. in august and am going to go to central park and just walked on the sidewalk for a while. she got to central park and they were all these women there. and she just yelled, take to
the streets! and they did take to the streets and it was huge. and it just knocks people out. and it made a difference. it changed the sense of empowerment that people had. even though ãthere will be marches all over the country. i hear from people everywhere i'm sure there will be get some down here too.will there be one here in key west? the one in key west ãthere will be reporters and there will be people sending pictures. i'm really looking forward to this it will be amazing. i will see you then. >> i think we have time for one more question. okay. >> speaking of the importance of having marches and rallies and up somewhere. from your point of view, what are some of the issues that women and all of us should be working for and organizing around? >> is a great question. right now on my gosh, stuff is going to happen very fast.
and it really is important for people to some extent to pick anything and do that. because otherwise you end up in a fetal position under your bed and he will not do anything. so pick one thing. planned parenthood will be under attack, abortion rights in general will be under attack. climate change, public school education if you are interested in that. we'll have the secretary of education for the public schools, it is incredible. there are all these issues, after the march ãpick one. and then really dig into it. find out what you can do. you will feel more empowered and things will get done. >> all right. thank you so much. >> thank you. [applause]
[inaudible conversations] >> we have a 20 minute break and then we will come right back here for robert caro and brenda wineapple. >> the 20 17th key west literary seminar is held annually in florida. starting out a conversation between biographer robert caro and historian brenda wineapple on writing history. >> hello this afternoon, hi. thank you for coming. good to see you all.